A classic Norfolk seaside town situated on a cliff top, overlooking fine sandy beaches
An Introduction to Cromer
Cromer is a classic North Norfolk seaside town, situated on a cliff-top overlooking fine sandy beaches. Cromer Pier has survived despite bad damage over the years and is a traditional seaside pier with a Lifeboat Station and Pavilion Theatre, which still stages end of pier shows. Cromer was developed into a significant resort by the late Victorians, when healthy breezes were sought rather than sun-drenched sands. Cromer church dominates the town as it has the tallest tower in Norfolk. The streets and alleys are crammed with shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. The fishing industry may have declined, but Cromer crabs are still as famous as ever with fishing boats, launched from the beach in season, tending to hundreds of crab pots. Cromer also contains a number of museums including the Lifeboat Museum and the Cromer Museum. The Cromer Carnival is held every summer and is great event for all the family. Not far from Cromer is Felbrigg Hall, one of the finest 17th-century country houses in East Anglia and owned by the National Trust. Finally, Amazona Zoo, a South American themed zoo on the outskirts of Cromer, a 10 acre site full of animals such as Jaguar, Monkeys and Flamingo.
We start our tour of Cromer by walking from the cliff-top car-park along the West Promenade to the town centre. The walk takes us past colourful gardens, a putting green and seating areas; the entire promenade gives wonderful views down over the sea. The seaside promenades were invented by the Victorians, when it was fashionable to stroll along the promenade and pier, listening to military bands and viewing a spectrum of seaside entertainments including Punch and Judy puppet shows. The main seaside shelter was recently rennovated by the BBC Countryfile team and you will find painted panels, depicting local scenes, by Julia Bradbury, Matt Baker and a team of local volunteers.
The rennovated seaside shelter and the painted panels by the BBC Countryfile team
From this lofty position overlooking the Norfolk Coast, there are wonderful views looking both west towards Sheringham and east towards Overstrand.
It is hard to imagine that over 700 years ago, you would have been looking at the lost village of Shipden. The advancing sea washed the village away in the 14th century and some remains of the church still exist beneath the waves.
Cromer beach, looking West
Cromer beach looking East
In 1888 a steamer on-route from Cromer to Great Yarmouth was wrecked on part of the old Shipden church and local stories tell that when the water is particularly choppy the bells of the submerged church tower still ring out.
Steps and a ramp take you down to the lovely beach ... which is well manned during the summer months and for the youngsters, there is a small fun fair with rides and slides. You could go looking for Cromer Crabs in the pools left by the retreating tide; Cromer Crabs are world famous for their quality and taste.
Relaxing on Cromer beach
Looking for Cromer Crabs
Cromer Kiddieland adjacent to the beach
Beach lifeguards overlooking Cromer beach
The Victorian Pier dominates the view of Cromer and there has been a pier or jetty here since 1391. The inevitable happened and various wooden structures were erected and then demolished by the power of the sea. The last wooden jetty was built in 1846, described as a plain wooden structure it was just 70 yards long and was a focus for Victorian gentlefolk, who walked along it day and night. Gales damaged the jetty so much that it had to be dismantled and Cromer was left without a pier. This spurred the 'pier commissioners' to consider a more fashionable and substantial structure. Work commenced on the current pier in 1900 and it was opened the following year, having cost £17,000 to construct. This structure has survived, despite bad damage in 1953, 1989 and in 1993; it is a constant maintenance battle against the battering of salt water. Please note that dogs are allowed on the pier, but not in the Pavilion Theatre or Lifeboat Station.
Cromer Seaside Pier
Cromer Pier as seen from the beach
Looking along Cromer Pier towards the Pavilion Theatre
Cromer Pier on a busy Bank Holiday
In 1905 the pier bandstand was covered to form an enclosed pavilion and the following season the first 'concert parties' performed. In 1908, the floor was covered in Maple to facilitate roller-skating and in 1936, one of the Pavilions most famous shows first appeared - Ronnie Brandon's 'Out the Blue'. Devastating gales in 1953 demolished the Pavilion and wrecked the pier. The Government of the day granted compensation for the rebuilding of the Pavilion and the new 'Theatre' was ready in time for the 1955 season. Today, the annual summer show proudly claims to be the last remaining “end of pier show”.
Pier Lifeboat Station and Pavilion Theatre
Entrance to the Pier and Theatre
In 1923 Cromer Pier was extended to 500 feet, to create a lifeboat station at the end. This modern RNLI lifeboat station, now houses a Tamar class lifeboat and is open to visitors. Free entry allows you to see the lifeboat close-up and learn about Cromer's long history with lifeboats (unfortunately dogs not allowed).
RNLI lifeboat, ready for launch
Further along the sea-front is a museum that is a tribute to the most famous coxswain of all, Henry Blogg; you can learn of his exploits in the RNLI Henry Blogg Lifeboat Museum, with the centerpiece being a Watson class lifeboat HF Bailey, built in 1935 and served heroically under Blogg in WW2. Coxswain Henry Blogg (1876-1954) was the RNLI's most decorated lifeboatman and during his 53 years of service, with the assistance of his dedicated crew, he launched some 387 times and helped to save 873 lives around the Cromer coast. This fabulous family friendly museum, with its interactive displays, is a great opportunity to learn about one of Norfolk's heroes.
Watson class lifeboat HF Bailey
Henry Blogg in the Lifeboat Museum
Above the museum is the Rocket House Cafe, with great sea views!
The entrance to Cromer Pier is a calling point for the Cromer road train, which runs around town and finishes near to the West Promenade car park (seasonal). The route takes you past Cromer's boating lake.
Cromer Roadrunner, a road train to the carpark
Cromer Boating Lake
We now head into Cromer's town centre. The sea-front is full of Victorian buildings with wonderful sea views and a reminder of the Victorian past, when the railway brought visitors to Cromer in search of fresh air. The prosperity of Cromer increased and by 1900, Cromer was in many people’s opinion, the most attractive sea front on the East Coast. Amazingly in just 2 hours and 55 minutes, a steam train would bring Victorian holidaymakers from London Liverpool Street station to Cromer (today it takes about 4 hours).
Cromer Seafront Property
The Victorian seafront at Cromer
One local story tells that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the famous adventures of the detective Sherlock Holmes, came to stay in Cromer. During his stay, Sir Arthur heard the legend of Black Shuck, a Norfolk ghost hound. Apparently Sir Arthur was so taken by the story; it inspired him to write one of his most famous mysteries "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in 1902.
Cromer town centre has some lovely streets and lanes with good views of the town or sea. The streets contain some wonderful shops and galleries to browse ... from well known shopping brands, to individual galleries, selling locally produced art and gifts. There are also shops selling freshly caught Cromer crabs!
Strolling Cromer's Streets
Fresh Cromer Crabs for sale
Fashionware for Ladies
Garden Street, Cromer
All Things Cake Shop
Cromer has a wide choice of places to eat and drink, including restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and pubs. But why not take the opportunity to try some traditional freshly cooked fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper!
Queing for fresh fish and chips from Mary Janes
The Lifeboat Cafe
The Wellington Freehouse Pub
Accommodation in Cromer consists of a wide selection of quality hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfast. In the late 19th century, Cromer had many fine hotels including the Grand Hotel, the Metropole Hotel and the Hotel de Paris - only the later still survives in its original form.
Cromer's Hotel De Paris
Cliftonville Hotel, Cromer
Cromer Bed and Breakfast
Cromer's church of St Peter & St Paul sits in the middle of town. Following the demise of the ancient village of Shipden and its church being lost to the sea, a site for a new church was sought. Kind Edward III gave permission in 1337 and this huge and magnificent building was built between 1377 and 1437. It is perpendicular in style and has the highest tower in Norfolk at 160 Feet. In the 17th and 18th centuries the church went into decay and part of it collapsed. One story tells that 4 of the bells were sold off to St Mary's, the famous Bow Bells of Cockney London, to pay for repairs. Thankfully, starting in 1885, the church was restored; and is now a lovely peaceful place in the centre of this bustling seaside town.
Cromer church of St. Peter and St, Paul
Inside Cromer Church
Close up of the bell tower
Stained glass window inside Cromer church
Steps lead up the church tower (172 steps) ... but the effort is worthwhile as the views are amazing. You get great views over Cromer Pier and also views along the coast - on a sunny day it makes Cromer look like a Mediterranean resort! A local tale tells of a boy called Harry; who was dangled from a hole near the 90th step trying to collect birds eggs. Apparently, Harry was dropped ... but somehow he survived! The hole is known as Harry Yaxley's Hole.
Cromer tower steps
The view from the top of Cromer church tower
View east along the Norfolk Coast from Cromer Church
View west along the Norfolk Coast towards Sheringham from Cromer Church
The Cromer Museum (adjacent to the church) occupies a row of Victorian fisherman's cottages and shows what it was like to live in Cromer at the end of the 19th Century. As you wander around the museum you will see a picture gallery (with a collection of historic photographs and illustrations of the town), and a Geology gallery where you can see an amazing collection of fossils, including Britain's oldest elephant fossil; found at nearby West Runton.
The Cromer Museum
Victorian fisherman cottage in the Cromer Museum
A Victorian lifeboat at the Cromer Museum
Cromer Museum gallery and exhibits
The West Runton Elephant Fossil on display
SUGGESTED WALK: Cliff Tops to Overstrand (one and a half miles approximately)
As you leave Cromer, a path rises from the town to the East and gives good views back over the town and the coast. This footpath takes you on one of the best walks in Norfolk, along the clifftop, past the Cromer Lighthouse and the Royal Cromer Golf Club, and eventually to Overstrand. The Cromer Lighthouse was originally built in 1680, but the present lighthouse, a white octagonal tower, was built in 1833 and converted to automatic operation in 1990.
Cliff top path to Overstrand with good views!
Royal Cromer Golf Club
On the outskirts of Cromer you will find a 10 acre site which has been transformed into a South American themed zoo, called Amazona Zoo. Highlights include Jaguars, Monkeys, Flamingos and a Reptile house; with all the animals coming from other zoos. You can see the animals close-up and signs help you understand about their natural habitat. View our guided tour of Amazona Zoo.
Chilean Flamingo at Amazona Zoo
Reptiles in the Amazona Hall
Not far from Cromer is Felbrigg Hall, one of the finest 17th-century country houses in East Anglia. Owned and managed by the National Trust, you will see some remarkable Stuart architecture and a fine Georgian interior.
There is a lovely walled garden, orangery, orchards and many lakeside, parkland and woodland trails to explore. See our separate guided picture tour of Felbrigg Hall.
Felbrigg Hall near Cromer
Inside Felbrigg Hall
Part of the walled garden at Felbrigg Hall
Cromer summary of what to SEE and DO
Enjoy beach activities on the lovely sandy beach
Lets the kids enjoy a ride at Kiddieland on the seafront
Take out a rowing boat on the boating lake
Explore the many independent shops lining the streets and lanes of Cromer town centre
Visit Cromer Pier and lifeboat station - you could even book tickets to an end of pier show!
Explore Cromer's history at the Cromer Museum
Learn about a local hero at the Henry Blogg Lifeboat Museum
Take a look inside the church and climb the tower for amazing views
Walk along the beach, cliff-top or pier and enjoy some of the best fresh air in the country
Enjoy a refreshment in a tea room, cafe or pub - or enjoy some fresh fish and chips!
This is a good and comprehensive Norfolk guidebook
This is a great book of Norfolk Trivia!
The best paper map for North Norfolk Coast walkers
If you like circular walks to a pub, this is the book for you!
I last visited Cromer as a 12 year old in 1963. Actually we stayed at East Runton but still remember the Pier and the Lifeboat station. Also remember the sea as being less than tropical! We are planning a visit to North Norfolk in July and will definitely stopover in Cromer. Thanks for the informative site and great photo's. Regards, Brian, Auckland, New Zealand.